Monday, October 26, 2015


I just finished another great read by Cindy M. Hogan. This time it was Gravediggers, a story about a 17-year-old boy name Billy who works digging graves the old fashioned way—with a shovel and lots of elbow grease. It’s a murder mystery filled with suspense, conspiracy, trials of friendship, teen-romance, tons of good southern humor, and most of all: relatable-believable-EMOTION! Cindy M. Hogan has this ability to capture the teenage voice is such a way you become the character—it’s rather brilliant and one day I hope to have just a little bit of that in my own writing. This is what makes all of her books so captivating; the characters have such real, raw emotions that they can’t help but leap from the page and turn to life before your eyes. 

This book would make a great film! (Anyone know any filmmakers?)

I’d love to see Billy’s story continue. He had such aspirations that I’d like to see them fulfilled. Any chance we could get a sequel, Cindy? Maybe see him solving more mysteries before he becomes an FBI agent? I can always tell when I have finished a good book when I long to keep reading after the last page. This book certainly left me that way, wanting to know more, see more, experience MORE. Note: there isn’t anything lacking in this book so the more I am referring to is me wanting another book with these fantastic characters—even the setting was its own character!  Awesome job, Cindy! I’ll enjoy my sleep until the next book you release.

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Billy thinks his father s murder will never be solved until he stumbles across an old ammo box while digging a grave in his small-town Tennessee cemetery.
What he finds leads him to question everything he knows, and his search for answers will uncover more than he bargained for: lies, secrets, and conspiracies and behind them all, a dangerous truth.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fires of Invention

This is one of those books that I was looking forward to for a very long time. I remember when the author, J. Scott Savage, first explained the premise to me after it was picked up by his publisher, Shadow Mountain. He told me then that he felt it was his best book so far. To him I have to say, yes, yes, it is! As many of you already know I am a HUGE fan of J. Scott Savage, not just his amazing books, but the amazing guy behind the books. He has been instrumental in not only my own writing career but I dare say hundreds of writers (young and old) and has become truly a great personal friend. Okay, enough man-gushing about Savage, let’s talk about his book: Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention.

There are few books that when I read them they inspire me to create art. Fires of Invention is one of them—which is rather ironic because in the world of Cove creating anything (art included) is against the law. That’s just one of the fun things I loved about this book. Another is that Savage has really embraced the idea of steampunk. While this isn’t set in a altered Victorian era it screams steampunk. The whole world of Cove is a giant machine and all its citizens are greasy gears working to make society flourish. Again and again this idea of cogs and gears is brought up and so intertwined in the belief system of the characters that it becomes real.

The one thing Savage has always done well in his books is create well-developed, relatable, realistic, lovable characters. His main character in this story is no exception! Middle-grade readers and beyond will connect with Trenton immediately. He is smart, determined, considerate, and brave. He is also filled with wonderful flaws which throughout the book you see him transform into strengths. It’s truly a story about accepting who you are not matter the costs and I like that a lot. I won’t go into too much detail about the building of the mechanical dragon or the other intense and brilliant moments in the book—you’ll just have to read it for yourself. This has been one of the best books I have read this year! The ending took me by surprise and I cannot wait for the next installment! Bravo, Savage!!

Summary of Fires of Invention:
Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and invention is a curse word.

Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, whose father died in an explosion an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity.

Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlikely anything they’ve ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on and quite possibly their very lives.

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Night Divided Stole my Heart

Jennifer A. Nielsen continues to boggle my brain with how awesome her books are. Can this author write a bad book? I don’t think so. A Night Divided is awe inspiring, but it’s more than just a story of hope, family, and friendship; it’s a story about freedom and what humans will do to have it. It makes you question what would you do for your own freedom—what lengths would you go to. It’s beautifully written in a voice that will keep you reading until the last page and falling in love with Gerta and Fritz so much that you’ll see a little of yourself in them. This book seriously had me holding my breath at the end. So be prepared. Also one of my favorite things was all the lovely quotes at the beginning of each chapter, they help with the feel, and in some cases add to the tension. Over all… another amazing read by Jennifer A. Nielsen!

Summary: From NYT bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen comes a stunning thriller about a girl who must escape to freedom after the Berlin Wall divides her family between east and west.

With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can't help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Making a Cover: The Quill Pen

I recently finished a cover for a super awesome client of mine, Michelle Isenhoff, and I thought it would be fun to show my process in creating the art. Kind of a step by step. Although I don't have ALL the steps I think you'll get the gist of what exactly I do when I digitally paint art for a cover. Before I even start my first step I have to get a feel for the book. Most of the time I just get a couple short sections to read through or just a blurb. Because I don't have a lot of time to sit down a read a whole book this is what I prefer. Michelle decided to make it easy on me and she recorded the book so I could listen in audio--which made it easy for me to read the whole book while working on other things.  It was a win-win. Once I have read the material I start to brood over the book. I like to ponder it for several days and see if I can come up with a really cool image. Then comes step one: I come up with a sketch idea. For Michelle I came up with two and she selected which one she felt best fit the book and competed the most with her genre's market.

This is sketch option 1: (Remember these are rough sketches but you get a sense of the final outcome of the book with it).

Here is sketch option 2: (This is the one Michelle felt best fit for her book)

Next I did a finer sketch. Just adding in a few more details and fixing up some things. This gave Michelle some time to make a few changes in the preliminary stage. She asked that I add glasses to Micah (the MC in this story).

Next I paint. While I didn't manage to hold on to a layer of just the flat layers of paint my first step is to lay down all the colors I will use through the piece. After I lay down the basic colors I start with shadows then highlights. The whole purpose it to find three layers of light (a dark, medium, and light). This one here showcases the painting's back ground and also the main front image of the boy and girl without the final highlights.

Next the fun stuff happens. One of my clients calls this "the fairy dust". It's basically just a brighter layer of color but it does certainly add a magical element to the art.

Finally I add a little more color, definition, and detail and I have the final piece painted.

The final step is to add the typography and finish up the spine and back matter. In the end you have a super fun cover for a super cool middle-grade read.

About the book:
If you owned a pen that wrote the future, would you use it? What if the consequences spread like ripples in a pond? What if they raged out of control? What if the pen demanded blood?

Thirteen-year-old Micah has found such a pen. One that’s ensnared him in a curse dating back generations. One that’s devastated two families and now threatens his whole New England village. But how can Micah destroy the pen when it offers him his only chance at the future he dreams of?

Where to buy:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Last Book of My Summer

As my summer reading comes to a close I can’t help but think about all the fun I had along the way. I visited fantasy worlds, became a spy, became a witch, became a child again lost to an adventure. Books are amazing vehicles that can lead you just about anywhere. Reading is not over for me! I am already building my list of books I want to tear through this fall. I’ll be sure to let you in on some of the books I’ll be reading and the impacts they made on me.

I ended my summer off with a book I have had for a while but never had the opportunity to read until now.  
The Clockwork Three, by Matthew Kirby is a super fun book. It takes place in an altered history during the early 1900’s. While I would classify this as steampunk it’s not as “steampunky” as other books I’ve read. Yes there is mention of a mechanical man and one of the kids works as a clockmaker but that’s about how far this book delves into the steampunk category. It is filled with heart racing moments as kids run for their very lives, but overall it is a story about friendship and the love of family. I love how the author explored the grittier parts of the cities, the tenements, the street urchins, and unlawful practices of child enslavement. It hinted at books like Oliver Twist and August Rush. I also enjoyed the nods he gave to the supernatural with fun character Madame Pomphrey and the magical green violin. Over all I loved the braiding of the three stories of Giuseppe, Hannah, and Fredrick into one and how they all came together to create a fun and moving mystery. I recommend this book to not only middle-grade readers but adults. This movie would make a fun movie.

Summary: Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician from Italy, who was sold by his uncle to work as a slave for an evil padrone in the U.S. But when a mysterious green violin enters his life he begins to imagine a life of freedom. Hannah is a soft-hearted, strong-willed girl from the tenements, who supports her family as a hotel maid when tragedy strikes and her father can no longer work. She learns about a hidden treasure, which she knows will save her family -- if she can find it. And Frederick, the talented and intense clockmaker's apprentice, seeks to learn the truth about his mother while trying to forget the nightmares of the orphanage where she left him. He is determined to build an automaton and enter the clockmakers' guild -- if only he can create a working head. Together, the three discover they have phenomenal power when they team up as friends, and that they can overcome even the darkest of fears.

Next on my reading list:
Wonder, by R. J. Palacio (a MG read) and Storm Moon, by Teri Harmon (a YA about witches!)

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Afterlife Academy

Every now and then I hear about a new book coming out and I can hardly wait to get my hands on a copy. Not only does The Afterlife Academy sound incredibly awesome (read the synopsis below) but the author, Frank L. Cole, is one amazing guy. He never misses an opportunity to make someone else feel special—yeah, he’s one of those guys. Not only is he super nice, but he’s supper funny (as in he tells lots of jokes, not that he’s funny looking). This book is coming just in time for the new school season and it’s ripe for some pre-Halloween fun. A kid pleaser for sure!

Want to meet the author? Frank L. Cole is having TWO incredible book launch parties and everyone is invited to come get a book and have some fun. The first is on Thursday, September 10th at the Jordan Landing Barnes and Noble (7157 Plaza Center Dr, West Jordan, UT, 84084) starting at 6:30 pm. The second is Tuesday, September 15th at The King’s English (1511 1500 E, Salt Lake City, UT, 84105) starting at 7:00 pm. 

Walter Prairie knows how to deal with bullies. He just has to beat them to the punch. But he doesn’t see the biggest hit of his life coming when he is struck dead by a bolt of lightning. Before Walter even knows what’s happened, he is sent to a Categorizing office, fast-tracked through the Afterlife Academy, and assigned as a Guardian Agent to protect a High-Level Target.

Walter's HLT, Charlie Dewdle, isn’t exactly the most popular kid in school. He’s what you might call paranormally obsessed. When Charlie finds an ancient book with spells that can be used to open the Gateway for demons to wreak havoc on earth, it’s up to him and Walter to fight an eclectic horde of enemies and protect humankind at all costs.

But saving the world isn’t so easy. Especially when your protector doesn’t know the first thing about the Underworld, bullies like Mo Horvath are trying to hunt you down, pretty and popular Melissa Bittner is suddenly talking to you, and your parents think you’re going crazy.